In the aftermath of General Motors filing for bankruptcy, Robert Reich makes the case for America embracing a post-manufacturing economy, where an increasing proportion of the value addition is in invisible "symbolic analytic" work where people analyze, manipulate, innovate and create. Reich defines such work as "analyzing, manipulating and communicating through numbers, shapes, words, ideas" and gives examples - research and development, design and engineering; high-level sales, marketing and advertising; composers, writers and producers; lawyers, journalists, doctors and management consultants.
He detects three distinct trends in this new economy - middle-class jobs that do not need a college degree are disappearing, job security is all but gone, and US is more unequal. Technology and outsourcing has enabled replacement of routine works like elevator operators, telephone operators, bank tellers, service-station attendants, supermarket check-out clerks, travel agents, real estate brokers, stock brokers and even accountants. He dwells on the importance of education and technical skill development in making full use of the opportunities that present themselves as these aforementioned routine jobs are replaced.
In the circumstances, he drives home the futility of bailing out GM to protect its workers, suppliers, dealers and local communities. He feels that the "bail-out is designed to give the economy time to reduce the social costs of the blow". Instead of the $60 bn bailout, he prefers using the money to help the Midwest diversify away from cars and manufacturing assembly, retrain car workers, and give them extended unemployment insurance as they retrain.